Failure to Appear in Court
What does "Failure to Appear" mean?
Occasionally you may be required to appear before a court. For example, people usually have to go to court if they have received a speeding ticket or have been charged with a crime. If you don't go to court when you were scheduled to go, then you have failed to appear.
When is Failure to Appear in Court a Crime?
If you fail to appear in court when your mandatory appearance is required, you are guilty of a misdemeanor. The most common situations include:
- failing to appear to pay a fine issued after a case was concluded
- failing to appear during an ongoing case
- failing to appear for sentencing after trial
What Happens if you Fail to Appear in Court?
Generally, what happens if you fail to appear in court is this: the judge will issue a "bench warrant" for failing to appear when you were obligated to do so. If a judge does issue a bench warrant then any of the following may happen:
- If you are stopped by the police, a systems check of your license number will alert them to the bench warrant, and you will be arrested and brought before the court
- Your license will be suspended until the case is closed and you will have to pay a fee to the DMV to get it reinstated
- You may be held in contempt of court
- You may have to pay a fine
- You may be held in jail until the hearing
- You may be denied bail
The severity of the consequences will depend on:
- The seriousness of the crime at issue when you failed to appear in court
- Previous failures to appear in court
- The prevailing laws in your state
What Should You Do if You Fail to Appear in Court?
If you fail to appear in court you should contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately. A criminal defense lawyer can instruct you on what happens if you fail to appear in court and can help you explain to the judge why you failed to appear. Once you have a lawyer, you should return to the court as soon as possible to turn yourself in and pay whatever fines you owe. Your lawyer will help arrange and set a pre-trial date to discuss your failure to appear in court with the District Attorney. Even after returning to the court, the judge may still take you into custody or demand that you post bail if you have failed to appear in court before.
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Last Modified: 05-17-2012 02:27 PM PDT
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